BookingTimes Blog

Choosing the Right Platform can significantly adjust your Google Rank.

If that’s enough for you, (wow! that was easy) have a lovely day and welcome to the family. If you’d rather not just take our word for it, we understand.  Here’s some data, and a lot of sources to back up our answer.

It’s no secret that Google’s seemingly prudish standards for delivering search results have cost businesses (large and small) copious amounts of money. Anything from being forced to update that ancient flashplayer site, adding attributes to images, figuring out keywords and then placing them strategically in code that you simply don’t understand - all the way to paying firms thousands of dollars a month to “Optimize” your site.

The frustrating part for most business owners is not knowing what to believe - it seems to constantly change. SEO agencies deliver static results month after month and manage your frustration by simply saying “it takes time.” While this is true, according to Google results can take anywhere from 4-9 months to reflect any change in rank, not all SEO agencies are contributing value. However, that means for 4-9 months, you are not likely to know if you are throwing your money away or not. With that being said, going against guidelines and cheating the system will reflect a negative impact in as little as 2 weeks.

Before making any substantial changes to your website, there are a few things you should know about Google, according to Google.

Google is logical. Google is a business.

Their primary function is to deliver the best possible search results to their users, so their users keep dumping data into Google. Search queries not only create economic opportunities for you, they also provide valuable information to Google to track, analyze, store, and sell: usage trends, buying trends, location activity, predictive analytics, and most of your dark secrets you don’t want anyone else to know. So for all intents and purposes, while you gamble your company’s operations and success on unnecessary Google fear, keep that key piece of information in the back of your mind. Google is not out to get you. 

SEO Impact of Substantial Website Changes

Changing your website can have a lot of different meanings. “Changing the content” versus “changing the platform (i.e. Wordpress to BookingTimes)”, have different implications and results. Following Google’s Best Practices Guidelines for webmasters can help you improve your rank and will give you a good idea about how to go about making changes. The good news is according to Google, they would prefer that you keep it simple!

Basic Google Principles 


 

  •  Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.   
  • Don't deceive your users.   
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.  
  • A good rule of thumb is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"   
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

 

See the source

In short: if you’re going to change your site (or build a new one), keep it clean, relevant, user friendly, and let Google know you made the change.  

 That sounds simple enough, but there are a few considerations that play a heavy role in SEO performance improvement following a transition- primarily - your URL structure.

Maintain the integrity of your established and utilized URL structure if you are making a transition.

In Google’s Guide > Introduction to Indexing it states the following: “ Without your pages’ URLs, our systems cannot crawl, index, and ultimately present your information in Search.”

This principle should be a serious consideration while evaluating new resources for functionality (including platforms.)  

 If you already have an established URL structure, you know that independent pages stand as an opportunity to display in the Search Engine Results Pages for specific subject matter. More often than not, this relates to specific products, services, or locations. All, or many of which, have their own keyword phrases used for search. 

 “Sports massage near me” (yourdomain.com/services/sports-massage)

 “Pregnancy massage near me” (yourdomain.com/services/pregnancy-massage) 

You can see the wisdom in creating opportunities through URLs - and it’s also good news for all of the money that was paid out to create them. However, if you’ve been doing this for long (more than 5 years) it’s likely that your site is very heavy and has many URLs that are not accessible, not relevant, and are not being crawled by Google or any other crawler due to limited bandwidth. If that’s the case, do not hesitate to dump the extra clutter and reestablish what is important to your company and in turn display that to Google. (You can find out what URLs are receiving any activity by looking at your behavior analytics in Google Analytics.) It is highly unlikely that you will have more than 6 primary landing pages (or core pages) on your site.

If you are using a subdomain for scheduling functionality (schedulingsoftware.yourdomain.com or yourdomain.schedulingsoftware.com) you should be aware that your SEO is impacted. Attributed ALEXA ranking (how much time people spend on the site), traffic volumes, and rank are separate from the primary domain. Google sees these as two different assets. Depending on whether or not your data is on your subdomain or the software providers’ sub domain, it would be in your best interest to redirect any traffic from the no longer valid URLs to your homepage, or appropriate landing pages. Until Google finalizes a new index of your site, the old links will still display and send people to dead pages. Removing the URLs from Google’s index (in webmaster tools)or using code to hide them (bad practice) won’t immediately stop the flow of traffic that may be attempting to load the data. As a courtesy to your customers, as well as to your standing with the Google police, a 301 redirect for a period of time is a great idea.

SEO Data on Business Who Have Transitioned to BookingTimes

We are frequently asked about the impact of transitioning from a platform that has been in use for a long period of time to our platform. After all, no more Wordpress login, no more endless content updates, image compression, plugin updates, SEO limitations due to short code, and endless spam emails…...it feels like setting down all of the balls you have been juggling - but when your job is to juggle, that’s a scary change.  Here is the data -

Company A (Large business)

Live and indexed through BookingTimes in June of 2019 in a highly competitive geo-market.

Performance 3 months prior vs 3 months following transition.

3 month window during transition vs 1 year later performance comparison. 

The current coverage on this client is 6,814 valid pages (indexed by Google and functioning without error). Despite the fractional change in average position, it is important to note that the number of keywords being evaluated increased by 320% over the course of a year - the vast majority of the new search keywords the client is now found for pertain to specific services and locations. This is the direct result of software structure. 

Technical SEO Considerations Included with BookingTimes

Function - As discussed, Google has recommended publicly that site owners take the time to build a website that offers value to their clients and relevance to the internet. BookingTimes is not a website company, it is a business software - intended to simplify the lives of the end user and our clients simultaneously. The primary objective of your website is to act as a sales conversion tool and information provider (as a means to convert sales and reduce administrative strain.) Due to the full integration of the online scheduling element of the platform into the website, alongside the marketing  and the business suite of tools - (all sitting on your domain) you are dramatically reducing any prohibitive factors that may impact revenue.

Form - Our sites are built in a uniquely uniform (but customizable manner) for a reason. You will notice our menu bars are similar from one site to another, and there are features that are consistent throughout all of our customers. This is a provided structure that lends itself to user interface and user experience. We attempt to provide the requested information as quickly as possible in as few clicks as possible. Our mobile sites compress the menu into a "hamburger" but continually display the Locations, Phone Number, and Book Now icons for easy access and navigation. All of this was strategically done to assist our customers in acquiring new customers. Google loves us for it.

Code - The BookingTimes platform is delivered in Valid HTML code that is clean and properly marked up. There is no short or fragmented code (which many DIY website builders and drag and drop plugins currently use). This makes the site easier for crawlers to read, increasing the probability of increased crawl bandwidth (how much of your site the crawler will see), and most importantly, improves the user experience. Visit any client site and use the keyboard command CTRL + U to view the source code - even if you don’t read code, go ahead and compare BookingTimes code to any WIX site. It doesn’t take an IT degree to see the logic.

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“Broken HTML or unsupported content on your pages: If Googlebot can’t parse the content of the page, perhaps because it uses an unsupported media type or the page is only images, it won’t be able to crawl them.”

by Google Webmaster Guidelines, 2020

Sitemap and Robots.txt - Once your site is live, a sitemap as well as Robots.txt is auto generated on your behalf. 

Server Speed - Google doesn’t care who hosts your website, they care how long it takes to render the site. BookingTimes runs on Amazon Web Servers - the same ones that stream your Amazon Prime movies on date night. They are fast, global, secure, and reliable. 

Image Size - When any image is uploaded to a BookingTimes website it is loaded onto the content display network and resized on your behalf (dramatically reducing load time). Images are also made to render on smaller screens.

Mobile Responsiveness - Our websites are created to perform across all devices. Mobile responsiveness is no longer an option for enhancement, it is mandatory. It’s estimated that more than 70% of your traffic is going to come from a cell phone - hence, preference given in the search results pages to those who display information that can be seen from a cell phone.

Google Integration - Google likes Google. They are greedy, they like participation, and they demand engagement. Our system allows for easy integration into Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Tag Manager, Maps and Adwords.

Automatic Content Updates - Because the schedule is integrated into the domain, you will be given credit for content updates on your schedule that is made publicly available (the same is true for new courses, services, locations, products, etc). Not only when you add a new instructor, but when someone books in, cancels, moves an appointment, etc. Because the information will be different every time Google crawls your site, preference will be provided to those pages - hence raising your credibility - and improving your rank for those pages and associated keywords.

Service/Location Specification URLs - BookingTimes has a highly sophisticated multi-location management system that allows for you to offer services in geo-targeted locations. However, you also have the ability to add details to specific suburbs, areas, neighborhoods, etc. to increase the likelihood of being found in geo-searches.  Searches such as “Driving School near Small Town USA” will pull the nearest Google My Business registered - however, if there is a designated URL on your site that specifies services provided, despite being further away, you are more likely to display in the results. 

Single Location Service Area example on map - indicating pick-up/drop-off (mobile) option for clients. Multiple locations functionality is available. Each location allows for customization of services and territory. 

BookingTimes demo clickable expanded service area offerings for single location > leading to specified location URL (ex. yourdomain.com/port-richmond-driving-lessons) 

Security - Security and SSL Certificates (or Secure Sockets Layer) became a major factor for Google in 2017 when they released statements that they would begin lowering the positioning of those who did not add SSLs to their sites. An SSL is the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure and protecting any sensitive data that is being sent between two systems. It’s a lock to keep the bad guys out. Every BookingTimes website is fully secured with an SSL as well as 2 factor authentication for every user. (To verify if a site has an SSL or not, simply look at the url bar in your browser, you will either see a little lock box, or https://yourdomain.com the s in the https:// signifies an ssl, the lockbox will confirm that it is valid.)

Do I Need My SEO Guy (Or Girl) Anymore?

That depends on you, your company, your burn rate, your capacity, your margins, and your future plans. Without a formal evaluation of your current strategy and historical results, that’s not a recommendation we are willing to make. While the technical SEO portion of your site is covered (and a solid foundation for your business), on-page SEO as well as off-page SEO should be considered.

On page SEO - Examples

 

  •  Location page content/building  
  •  Blog contribution  
  •  Newsletter content/setup 
  •  Schema markup 
  •  Custom meta information  
  •  Relevant page additions 
  •  Landing page content/building 
  •  Site modifications (because you simply don’t have time to use our super easy drag and drop builder, or just don’t want to) 
  •  etc.

 

Off page SEO - Examples

 

  •  Ad campaigns 
  •  Keyword research 
  •  Market research 
  •  Social media (not as relevant to rank, but great for acquisition)  
  •  Directory submissions 
  •  Establishing Quality Back-links 
  • Blogger Outreach
  •  Reputation management (Reviews are critical) 
  •  etc. 

 

These are all great examples of important functions that provide favorable results over time.  There really is no downside to having a credible and skilled SEO person on your team. The BookingTimes platform provides unlimited marketing opportunities to your marketing staff, and all of it can be automated and built for scalability.

BookingTimes Approach to Search Engine Optimization 

We understand that the decisions business' make today will impact them for years to come, and can have a large impact on their performance and sustainability. We do not take the importance of online visibility lightly. While the Google rule makers are as fickle as they come, we do our best to stay ahead of any changes and ensure our customers have a distinct advantage over their competitors. 

After all, we are built on your success - when your company grows, so does ours. 

Please feel free to download the Google User Guide - It is 168 Pages long, but may not be a bad idea, for your reference. Please email us with any questions you may have after reading it.

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COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on service-based industries. With many countries requiring quarantine or imposing mandatory closures of businesses, the impact is being felt across businesses small and large.

Here are some of the best strategies that BookingTimes clients are using to make the best of the bad situation.

 

“Communication is Key” - Email Communication and Customer Outreach

Put yourself in the shoes of your clients.  They probably don’t know if you’re staying open or if you’ve closed.  And if you are open, then they’d like to know the measures that you’re taking to keep them (and your staff) healthy. 

Here’s a few ideas: 

  • Update your website with any local updates. 
  • Send emails letting everyone know your status. 
  • Tell customers how you are handling things and how that impacts them.  
  • Text all cancellations immediately (to staff and customers).  

Last week, BookingTimes clients sent out over half a million emails to their customers.  The emails simply stated that: 

  • Services are continuing. 
  • Highlighting the disinfecting process between clients. 
  • Offering free cancellations for anyone who may be experiencing any flu symptoms. 

 Not only does this strategy keep their customers fully aware of their status, but it also builds trust & goodwill.

 

“Stay Accessible” - Online Bookings and Remote Business Management

Similarly to communicating your hygiene standards, being transparent about your availability and allowing your customers to book, pay and manage bookings online means that people feel confident to make an appointment without having to ring and check if you’re open.  

It’s also a good time for those home-based & mobile services as customers won’t have to enter the public realm and make contact with undesirable germs. 

For those offering services at a business location,  make sure that you manage the customer overlap and give yourself ample time to clean your equipment, surfaces, etc, in between customers.  

 Additionally, having a central, online booking system allows your employees to do everything from home.  Remember, you need to take care of your employees who take care of your customers.

 

“Look Forward” - Gift Cards For Future Use

Wuhan (ground zero) has seen already its first COVID-free days! 

Many people are happy to hunker down during community isolation and spend their days watching Netflix. 

 As a business owner, you’ll also want to find some easy wins (even in a shutdown) to ensure the continuity of your business and staff. Unless you can get some toilet paper to sell at a huge markup today, the next best thing would be to pre-sell some gift cards for your services.

If you offer a discount (and that’s going to be important in the upcoming weeks/months), you’ll be able to have some income now, PLUS some momentum after the lockdown ceases. Despite the heavy atmosphere surrounding COVID-19 as a service based industry owner, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. With a little skill, tactical strategy, and social responsibility - we will all get through this - and we are in it together.

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Are you missing out on repeat business?

Why you should add Memberships and Subscriptions to your massage business.

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Most small to medium-sized businesses know that the cost of customer acquisition can often make or break you, and as the old adage goes, “It’s much easier to keep a customer than it is to find a new one.” But finding new and creative ways to retain a customer can often be limited by the capacity of your staff to keep track of every historical booking of every customer, and be aware of any extended gaps in their services. BookingTimes offers a solution to both tracking activities as well as customer retention.

Memberships guarantee recurring revenue (predictability)

Do you know what the beauty of a business with online components is? You can use the tools in your website to generate reliable recurring revenue each month. By removing the anxiety that comes with uncertainty in your operation, making decisions for growth becomes much easier! The best thing you can do for your business is to maximize your returns on existing customers by creating recurring billable services through subscriptions.  Keep them coming back for more with a monthly membership; an example may include one massage a month, plus the option to book in for more massages as a discounted rate (available for members only). Consider adding membership-only specials to get them back in a second time that month, or to get your clients buzzing to all their friends and neighbors about your fantastic services, add a referral bonus points program! If they cannot come in for a certain month, consider a rollover service that bumps out their membership by an additional month for unused services.

Subscription services

Entice your members with subscription packages to skincare products, cosmetics or other boutique items. Get those extras flying off the shelves! Alternatively, you could allow their bonus points to roll into a payout for these extras as well. Alternatively, memberships/subscriptions could also cover facials and other spa services. It all depends on what your specific business offers. The options are endless! Consider a customizable experience for your best customers – the ones who already know and love your services!

Mix and Match Packages

Speaking of customizable services, you could put together different package levels of memberships to include a one hour massage, a facial and a sauna (customize according to your specific offerings) so you can upsell the client into a higher package for a very lovely, relaxing monthly outing!

Avoid the waiting period

Create upsell opportunities via other products

Offer other products at a small discount for members only, such as gift cards, retail items or special services.

Membership doesn’t have to mean discount

Membership price structuring is completely up to you! While establishing pricing models, you should take into consideration the return on your initial investment of acquisition and offer incentives. However, sometimes consistently providing the services to your customers is enough to incentivize them to come back. No discount necessary.  BookingTimes has innovative solutions for your business needs, customized to your specifications. Make the most of your online tools by utilizing these features to keep your existing customers coming back for more, month after month.

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Running your own business can be overwhelming, adding the complexity of managing multiple schedules of driving instructors can be daunting. There are so many decisions that need to be made. Taxes that need to be filed. Websites to update. Schedules and appointments to keep track of. It can often feel like there’s just too much for one person to do and guess what, you’re right! Why reinvent the wheel when you can outsource some of this work to others in a thoughtful, easy to use system?

When it comes to choosing a platform to support your growing driving school, there are many things to consider preliminary; 

  • How much does it cost? 
  • Will they support my expanding business?
  • How easy is it to set up and learn?
  • Will it contribute to or hurt my SEO?
  • Who owns my data if I use this software?
  • What will this software DO for me? 
  • How will this software make my life easier?
  • Is it worth the money, time and effort of setting up?
  • If I run into trouble, is someone there to help me?
  • Is there an app for that?
  • What do other businesses think of it?

Take a few minutes to also consider some things that are less obvious. How will the software platform assist you if you’re planning to expand your business into new service areas? Is it easy to setup/alter your existing platform? Does the software account for driving time between Drive School appointments?

Write a list of your pain points with your current system, even if you are not using official software, whatever method of organization you’re using probably has some pain points that your new software should address. The software you choose should be fully customizable and tailored to what makes YOUR life easier. 

If you hire contractors, how simple is it to generate 1099s for them during tax season? How easy is it to generate revenue reports, or split commissions between different people?

Here is a list of strategic functionalities that will be pertinent when making your final software decision:

  • Travel times between lessons
  • Contractor management 
  • Business Expansion
  • Zone Allocation management
  • Built-in Suite of Reporting Tools to answer questions like how much you made last quarter, what is your current booking volume and much more.
  • Marketing tools such as MailChimp extensions, Twilio, Constant Contact, CRMs, Rep. Management so that you’re actively reaching out and generating contact with potential customers. 
  • Any particular pain points that your current system isn’t handling well.

 

Discuss this list with the software sales team. If they don’t have a solution for you built into their platform, it’s time to move to the next platform!

BookingTimes is a customizable platform that’s truly adaptable to your unique needs. With many features such as appointment bookings, SMS text message reminders for your clients, streamlined invoicing and backend reporting.

P.S. BookingTimes carries all of this functionality. Our Business-In-A-Box model is fully customizable and tailored to your specific needs. Not sure about something in particular? Just ask, our responsive team of in house developers are capable of anything!

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Payment Options

One of the highlights when running a business is getting paid.  You walk a little taller with a little more confidence that the latest business decisions you made were on target.

Getting paid over the internet used to be really difficult. PayPal initially made huge steps in online payments but it takes consumers off to their own website so you're no longer in control of the buying experience.  It's like shopping for shoes and then having to go to the bank to direct transfer the money across.

We've used a number of online payment providers over the years, but after frequently seeing the regular onboarding process take 6+ weeks it was time to look elsewhere.

 

New Payment Provider - Stripe

Stripe Payments

Stripe's biggest advantage is that you can get an account and start charging credit cards in nearly any currency within 10 minutes.

Gone are the weeks of business audits and account restrictions.  If you're in business, they'll payments for you and deliver them to your business account in 2 days.

Additionally, BookingTimes integrates directly with Stripe so you never have to leave your website to process payments for your cart, bookings or sales transactions.

For more information, go to Stripe.com

 

Buy Now Pay Later - zipPay

zipPay Payments

For a long time, many "buy now, pay later" services haven't supported service based business.  Apparently, it's easier to go and confiscate the clothes that someone has bought if the client hasn't made any payments. 

The good news is, that you don't need to worry about that.  zipPay will let you offer a "buy now, pay later" option when people purchase your services.  zipPay is a digital wallet (an online credit card) which will let you sell your big ticket items and give your customers the ability to pay it off over time.  They're not charged any interest, upfront payments or fees (unless they miss a payment).

We've integrated this with our shopping cart which means you can sell products, packages and gift vouchers.  We're looking to incorporate zipPay with our online bookings screen in 2018.

To apply, go to zipPay.com.au

Alternate Payment Providers (Australia Only)

It would be remiss to cover our other online payment providers.  

NAB Transact is still remains the cheapest payment provider for large volumes of transactions at 1.5% plus 30c per transaction. They have a monthly minimum fee of $30 / month.

SecurePay by Australia post has no monthly fees and charge a flat 2.4% on every transaction.

eWAY also has no monthly fees and charges 1.9% plus 20c.  They can take a long time to process your application if you're not keeping on top of the process.

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One of my favorite things to do is to talk to other business owners.  I'm always looking at why some businesses are more successful than others.

I've got 3 essential rules on how to reach your success.

1. Define Success

I grew up thinking success was to be like Michael Jackson who would come home to his Neverland Ranch complete with tigers, monkeys and all kinds of exotic things.

After finishing school and university, I thought success was running up the corporate ladder and becoming more and more involved in the design and management.

And then I thought...the story will just go on and on forever.

So you need to define what success looks like for you.  What are you aiming for?  Goals like "more business" is really not motivational and won't create any kind of lasting impact on you.

You'll find a much more concrete foundation by saying "I want to be the premier service for X by making a measurable difference in those people's lives".  At least, that's what makes me feel good.

An easy way to determine if you're on the right track to defining success would be to ask yourself "if I told my parents about my goal, would they tell their friends?" And once you reach success, will your definition change?

Success is really the goal of why you got into business in the first place.  It's why you get up in the morning and where you're headed.

Aim high!  You may still miss the target, but at least you won't shoot your foot off.

2. Aim for the Target

Once the target has been identified, most people struggle to stay on target.  If you've ever driven a boat, you have both the waves and wind continually pushing you off course.  You're frequently tuning your direction.

One anxious journey, storm clouds completely removed all the landmarks and mountains out of our visibility and all we saw was the ocean and had absolutely no sense of direction.

We'd accidentally left the GPS at home, and didn't think we needed to go back for it.  What I would have given for even a compass!!

If you have a rock solid vision of what success is, you aim for it.  You take the hits from the wind and waves, you correct and keep aiming for your goal.

It doesn't really matter if you think you can or can't achieve it.  If you commit yourself to the target, you will get there. But if your target keeps moving, you'll never be able to build anything substantial because you'll be continually starting from scratch to hit the latest target.

3. Do the Work

There's thousands of moving parts in a business, and to be good at business, you need to do all of it.

That's not going to happen overnight, and you shouldn't feel bad about it taking so long.

When I left school, I joined the army and remember going on all night marches with my pack on my back and rifle in hand.  There was no color to the scenery at night, just 100's of shades of grey.  I was always waiting for the cut scene where after 10 seconds of walking, the scene would change and I would be at the destination - it never happened!  

A 50km journey is really a journey of 65,000 steps that you take, one at a time.  But you'll never arrive at your 50km destination unless you take each step sequentially.  You have to keep walking and eventually, you arrive.  

All business owners are busy trying to find enough hours in the day.  Hire some help if you need it.  Get a casual or virtual assistant if you can't afford (or need) someone full time.  Your primary goal is to do all the work required to move the needle to achieving your success (see point #1) and then keep making sure taking steps efficiently.  No point scaling walls if you can just walk around it.

That said, don't burn people along the way.  Achieving success in business should never be at the expense of your relationships or reputation.  If you're doing those things, you're doing it wrong.

Conclusion

You can do it.  Never sell yourself short.  When you dig deep, you find a well of talent and resilience that you didn't even know existed.  You can do the impossible.  As Audrey Hepburn once said: "Nothing is impossible.  The word itself says I'm possible".

Define your target, aim and stay on your target, and then do whatever you need to do, to go out and reach success.

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Do you feel like you always miss out on sales at Christmas time because you run a service based business that doesn't have any products to sell for Christmas.  Many people are also winding down for the holidays and spending all their time doing Christmas shopping making it a slow season.

Here's 3 great techniques that you can use to enable your business to shine over the Christmas period when you don't have products.

1. Gift Vouchers

Create prepaid vouchers that people can redeem for your services.  Voila, you have just turned your services into a marketable product.

There's a numerous ways you can do this.  You could whip up some vouchers or buy some from your newsagent.  However, you don't want to come across as just flogging a product to increase your sales...it's Christmas. 

Here's some ideas on how build rapport and loyalty to get more out of your vouchers than just sales:

  • Sell them to your best and most loyal customers who are always telling their friends about your business (or who want to show their friends just how good it is).  By doing a great job for their friends, you most loyal clients become even more loyal and will buy more for other friends next year.
  • Write a personal message on the voucher.  That way, people are more likely to buy because they know that you care about helping them to give a nice present.
  • Sell a book of vouchers for a slightly discounted rate.  If you sell a book of 5, they'll give it to 5 people and you'll hopefully get 5 new clients - all while having people thank you for your offering.

2. Christmas Specials

According to ASIC, Australians spend roughly $1,079 at Christmas with many loading up the credit card.  If your business is slowing down, it means that people may simply be redirecting their money to buying gifts.

If it's slowing down, why not run a Christmas special?  It could be a small service offering and for only a specified date range.

There's 3 great angles that this works on:

  1. Your regular clients who are short on money will happily book in - because they're getting a discount!
  2. People who've wanted to book in but wanted a cheaper price to try out your services will book in.
  3. Most importantly, it gives you something to market.  Something to put in front of people and say "hey, I made this discount, will you consider using my services".  More on this in the next section.

Test it out and see if it works for your business.

3. Marketing

Christmas is the time when people expect to be marketed to.  We WANT to be marketed to.  I love scuba diving and I WANT the scuba diving company to send me their best specials so I can show my wife what a great special it is and that she gets my not-so subtle hints on what would make a great Christmas present.

So if you are going to sell Christmas Vouchers OR to are having a Christmas Special, you've just created yourself a marketable event that you can:

  • Email to people
  • Put up on social media (Facebook, Google+ etc) 
  • Put up on your website. 

Having something that is marketable is MUCH more powerful than putting up a picture of Santa on Facebook and wishing people Merry Christmas.

Marketing gives people a reason to visit your website - because you're now helping them to buy a gift or get a discount.  Even telling them your Christmas operating hours is helping them to pre-plan their time before and after your holidays!

How BookingTimes does Vouchers

Maybe you'd like to see how BookingTimes lets businesses sell vouchers and gift vouchers at Christmas through their website and how people redeem them.

 

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Google released a massive shift to it's search algorith last Tuesday that gives mobile-friendly websites a massive boost in it's mobile search results.

On the surface, you may think "that won't affect me", what you may not realise is that approximately half of all searches are now conducted on mobile phones.  So the impact can be a MASSIVE gain or a massive detriment to gaining clients.  The change was so big, that Google even notified webmasters that it was coming!

When you do upgrade, Google's search results now display the tag "Mobile-friendly" increasing the likelihood that potential browsers will choose to read your mobile-friendly website over your competitors. 

Also, if 50% of traffic of people are searching for your business on their phone, you can also safely assume that 50% of people are reading your website on their phone as well - and if it's hard to read, they'll probably go elsewhere which isn't great news for your business.  You want to catch your customers before they head to someone else's website.

Google has also published a tool so you can work out how mobile-friendly your website is: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly

In summary, it's a perfect time catch the winds of Google change by upgrading your website to be mobile-friendly to quickly increase your market share while your competitors drag their heels.

PS. All BookingTimes websites are mobile-friendly and rank well on Google desktop and Google mobile searches.

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People want you to have an online presence

Each week, I talk to many people about website development and I've found that there's a lot of confusion out there regarding what a website actually is. 

Some people have an online directory listing similar to the Yellow Pages and call that their website.  Some have a Facebook page and others have an email contact form and say that they offer "online appointments".

In reality, your website is the focal point for advertising your services AND interacting with your clients.

The other avenues are important, but they should be used to point customers to your website.  Once they're on your website, that's where the potential exists to turn them from browsers into people making appointments. 

1. Make Sure You Can Update It

There's plenty of people around who'll give you website and then tell you that you need to email them to make changes on your behalf.  You need to be in control of your own content and be able to change it on a whim. 

If the process is too hard to make changes, then you'll get weary of the process and stop making the necessary changes meaning it's not the right type of website for you.

You want your website to be showcasing your latest information, services, pricing, staff listings etc, so that your customers know what you offer. 

Remember, the first place most of your customers look to find information about you is online.

2. It Must Showcase All Of Your Information

Your business needs to show ALL of your information - don't even think of getting a website deal where you get 8 website pages for $x,xxx.

You need to be able to show:

  • An introduction to your business.
  • A list of your services.
  • Detailed information about each service - including prices
  • Information about you and other staff members.
  • Your business address(es) with maps.
  • Most importantly - Your contact information!

The more information you have online, the more that you will build trust with potential clients enabling you to convert them into clients.

Again, these things change so you need to be able to update these things on a whim.

3. Ensure It Has a Blog

Google's search engine loooooves blogs and so should you.  Google sees that your website is being updated regularly and it's one powerful way that you can get repeat visitors to your site - oh yes, Google's tracking how many people repeatedly visit your site too which also helps boost your Google rankings. 

While blogging probably isn't your favourite past-time, it's a great way to communicate with your clients and give them useful information.  It lets you showcase any events that you might be running and even the latest healthy snack recipes that you've found.

I'm hearing you say "You can put all that information into Facebook".  That's true, however, your audience is going to be limited to those who have liked your page and subscribed to your feed and Google will add your Facebook feed to your search engine results. 

The best way is to put it into your blog, then add your blog link to Facebook.  If you do it regularly (even once per month), then you'll start ranking in Google and get some initial traffic from Facebook.

4. Email Collection

Many people won't buy or make an appointment from your website the first time they visit your website.  Most will never actually come back to your website.

One way to get them back is to collect their email so you can follow up their website visit.

To do this, you either have a blog that they subscribe to, or better still, offer them something free like an eBook in exchange for their name and email address.

This does sound a bit daunting if you don't have a website, but once you have a website, this is something that you'll find invaluable to getting new clients.

5. Offer Online Appointments

Let me start by saying that an online contact form is NOT offering appointments online.  It's just a contact form.  Behind the scenes, it sends you an email saying "Fred Smith wants an appointment between 10am-12pm.  Please contact him tomorrow morning when you start your day".

If a potential customer comes to your website at 12am, they're looking then and there for an appointment and if they leave your website, then unless they come back and revisit your website page, you've lost them forever.

The best way to ensure that you've given yourself the maximum opportunity to convert your visitors into paying clients is to offer those visitors the opportunity to book your services online.

6. On-Going Support

Many website development companies take your money upfront and then once they've delivered your website, they leave alone and never talk to you again.

You should make sure that you can contact them and that they offer you on-going support for your website.  Having bugs in your website will drive away customers and make you crazy.

7. Make Sure It's Simple To Use

Way back in the day of Nokia and Panasonic mobile phones, Nokia became a world-leader while Panasonic fizzled.  I had to fix my grandmother's Panasonic phone and I couldn't figure it out.  The menus were hard to navigate and functions weren't were I expected them to be.  I gave up and went back to my Nokia.

The same goes for your website.  If it's hard to navigate, functions in strange places, then it's going to turn people away and you'll be frustrated.

Turning hard concepts into simple software is actually reflective of a good quality website.  Google is a great example of something incredibly complex under the surface into something so simple that anyone can use.

8. Ensure You Can Tweak The Technicals

Even if you don't know a website's technicals, at some point, you will need to be able to (or have the developer) alter the underlying technical abilities of your website. 

Some examples may be to have your site integrate a third-party online application such as MailChimp, PayPal etc.

You'll not want this when you initially get your website, but it's important to note that your business will change overtime and you may need to adjust the underlying technical structure of your website to support your business changes.

9. Buy From A Reputable Source

I appreciate that your nephew's second cousin will build you a free website aka fancy online brochure

We're talking about your livelihood here.  You wouldn't get them to build you a massage table or write your nutritional programs.

Your website is a key component to your business and you need someone who understands what things are important to business (your business) and can help you achieve measurable results.

 

If my blog post has helped you in any way, please like and leave a comment below :)

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One of my recent undertakings is to swim 30 laps at the local pool.  I don't particularly like using up valuable time to do exercise, however, it's incredibly refreshing and there's plenty of time to think about things while following a thin black line.

I've been getting much fitter and I've been noticing a regular improvement in my endurance and speed.  Not to mention that I can now do tumble turns at the end of each lap!

As I was pondering on my improvement and admiring my own prowess in the pool, I thought "I'm doing so fine, that obviously someone is going to notice my fine form, my fast speeds, my flawless technique and then meet me at the end of a lap and sign me up to the Olympic team."  I was a little disappointed that they weren't there when I finished.

Similarly, I used to sing in the shower when I was a teenager.  The acoustics were wonderful and I knew that if the right person heard me through the bathroom window, they'd sign me up straight away with a record deal!  I'm sure they knocked, but I didn't hear the door because I was in the shower.

What's going on!!  I had the talent *cough cough* but there was no traction.

I pondered this and realised.  If you I want to go to the Olympics, you have to enter swimming competitions.  If you want get a record deal, you need a band and you then go and submit your music to a record label.

Rather than waiting to be discovered, go and place yourself into the same location as those who can help you achieve your goals.  You need to be around the selectors doing what you do, to be able to achieve your goals.

You can't stay at home and expect people to hear you from the bathroom, or be at the swimming pool to find a selector. 

Here's some ways to be around your clients:

  • Email them.
  • Write them a blog article that would help them in their day-to-day activities.
  • Send them a text message saying happy birthday.
  • Ask them if any of their friends would be interested in your services.
  • Give them a fridge magnet.
  • Follow them up if they don't have another appointment - this shows that you care.
  • Remember their name.

By changing what you do today, will ensure that you have a better destination from yesterday.

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